Welcome to Tobies. Open 24 hours and hailing as Minnesota’s famous halfway stop (between the Twin Cities and Duluth), they include an ice cream parlor, banquet hall, lounge, tavern, diner, boutique and gift shop, convenience store, gas station and, last but not least, a bakery. One with a national reputation, and a line out to door to match.
Colossal, gargantuan, massive, mammoth… These are just a few words that describe the infamous Tobies cinnamon roll. Whether you like it generously iced, caramel covered, or, the pièce de résistance, piled high with caramel pecans. World. Famous. Coming in at a whopping 30 to a pan, my sucre-loving heart skipped a beat. People often compare it to their grandmas recipe. Let me tell you, I don’t know any grandma that makes them this good. They go through so many cinnamon rolls that they have to make their homemade icing by the bucket full. It took every ounce of willpower I could muster to not nab one, find a spoon and pretend it was ice cream. I wish I were joking. Ahem, as I write this, I am halfway through a cinnamon roll, with icing as warpaint across my face. And no you can’t just get all the rolls from the middle of the pan – what sort of monster would make it so that everybody else has to have the outside pieces?!
If rolls aren’t your thing, don’t fret! Homemade cookies, cake donuts, crispies, pies, loaves of bread, muffins, bismarks, fritters, candies, jellies, jams,… I could go on and on! You can even get a cupcake bouquet! There is one thing I would highly suggest though; Andrej’s European Pastry. Potica (pronounced Po-tee-sa), a Slovak thinly rolled gourmet sweet bread dough that you can get with either walnut or poppy seed filling. I suggest this because it has an insane shelf life and is a favorite among hikers and backpackers (it’s small and calorie dense). Also, for those gluten-free folks who feel betrayed by the bakery-scene – Tobies has you covered. They have a whole section of gluten-free goodness! The restaurants’ are amazing, too. A welcome break from the fast-food ridden highways.
The green oval glowing the distance, beckoning the weary traveler from the highway. My love for Tobies runs deep because like most Minnesotans growing up vacationing on Lake Superior, it has become a staple and a tradition. In my lifetime of travels to Duluth, I don’t think there’s been a single time that I have not stopped at Tobies. Just the thought of a trip to the northcoast has visions of cinnamon rolls dancing in my head. I have been coming here for so long that I promise, if I call my mom right now, she has Tobies bread in her freezer. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who’s childhood involved the North Shore that hadn’t been here. I hereby proclaim that Tobies deserves it’s own zipcode because growing up, honest-to-goodness, I thought Tobies was the town name. P.S. It’s not, it’s located in Hinkley, for those who shared my confusion.
Hinkley has a rich history, with the Great Hinkley Fire of 1894, but I myself am partial to Tobies tale. Opened in 1920 by the Wendt family, the cafe and bus stop served donuts and coffee on the old Highway 61, Bob Dylan’s crown muse. It operated successfully for 27 years, until 1947 when Tobie Lackner bought the shop and gifted its current monikers most iconic element, his name. Tobies Eat Shop and Bus Stop was born and reigned on 61 for 19 years until the new freeway planned to come through. Prior to building I-35, this was the heart of Hinkley. The Lackners chose to retire and sold to the Schrade’s (the prevailing family). In 1966, they moved, now simply called
“Tobies,” to its current location off Exit 183 and have become the one-stop-shop and widespread rite of passage for passersby. Currently on its second and third generation of ownership and fourth generation of employees.
They keep up with the times, too! My Paul Bunyan loving heart almost leapt from my chest when I saw all of the Minnesota-branded apparel and accessories they carry – and I’m not just talking food! I picked up a Sota Clothing sweatshirt, a few Minnesota Children’s books and even a buffalo plaid bottle koosie. Sure there is kitsch, but that’s exactly what you want from a place like Tobies.
What’s next on the horizon, you ask? Well, their gas station / car wash is about to get better. Soon, they will be opening a Caribou (keeping it local!) kiosk right inside! No more long distance trips without your ’Bou!